Close to the Source: Finding Modern Read-Aloud Classics

Posted by on November 14, 2013.

How do you define a classic read-aloud book? I think a classic is a book that has personal staying power, that becomes a formative part of your childhood. There are a lot of good and great books, but for me, not many make the cut to classic.

Trust me. I was an extraordinarily picky reader when I was younger, judging every book my mom and dad read to me as if I were a New York Times critic. After looking at some books I consider classics, I realized they all share similar qualities. But they all stand out in unique ways, making them favorites in my childhood library. A couple of my criteria:

Parent and child reading

1. It has to be interesting.

Even though this seems a little obvious, it’s harder then you think. Finding a book that’ll capture the interest of both you and your child is extremely hard. If only one of you finds the book you two are reading interesting, it will start to feel like a chore sitting down and having story time, which is a feeling you do not want to associate with reading. Talking with your child about their interests will help you find a book that’s engaging for both you and them.


Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson

2. When in doubt, stay current.


Finding a classic book for your child’s personal library does not mean the book has to be widely considered “classic.” Keeping in mind my first tip, put yourself in your child’s shoes. If your kid is interested in the outdoors, you don’t need to start with Huckleberry Finn. The language and symbolism in those books may be a little to heavy for kids that age. Your child might find a fast-paced, action-packed book like The Hunger Games more interesting. It deals with the same interest, but gives a fresh perspective.


Kids nowadays want things that will grab their attention, something that current books offer. Another example: if your tween girl is entranced with growing up, don’t give her Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret quite yet–give her PeachesBoth great books deal with the fantasy and reality of growing up, but your modern child will relate to one more than the other.

Twig by Elizabeth Orton Jones

3. Make sure it teaches a lesson (or at least teaches something). 


Finding a book that mixes modern literature and morals is hard to find. There is a fine balance, as I said, between a book with too heavy symbolism and one that just tells a story. Finding a book that will grab a kid’s attention, and keep it, while simultaneously teaching something, is quite a tall order. One of my favorite “lesson” books that I consider a personal classic is Twig by Elizabeth Orton Jones. It is a whimsical tale that deals with topics like first friendships, family, and fitting in, all through the eyes of a young girl named Twig. Boys and girls up to twelve years old can relate to this book. It is so compatible with every child and will definitely leave an impression. And it was written in 1942, so some books are timeless.


Creating a classic library is not an easy task, and will take quite a lot of time to construct. Believe me when I say it will be worth it though. Being able to physically look at and relive the stories and lessons these books taught me, as a young adult, is so beautifully nostalgic and important. I will always remember these books and the morals they instilled within me. Reading these books helped make me who I am, something I hope your child will say one day too.

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